Israel may have needed three consecutive election campaigns within less than a year for the fog of nonsense to finally disperse and for voters to focus on the real issues that affect our lives.
Who even remembers all the scandals that have swept the country since the April election? Hacked phones that gave Iran access to the dirty secrets of former chiefs of staff; trips abroad by the prime minister and his wife, with no clear purpose beyond generating opportunistic buzz; chatter about a rotating premiership or selective enforcement of the law that interests no one (save for sworn Bibi loyalists). Now there’s Operation Benjamin to airlift 400 or 783 members of the Ethiopian Falashmura community to Israel, perhaps on the prime minister’s plane, and perhaps with an amazing stopover in New York for Jonathan Pollard – who knows?
Perhaps in the three weeks remaining to the election we’ll find out that Israel has made it to Mars, is annexing Ethiopia and, on the order of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has developed a vaccine for the new coronavirus vaccine, and that they are what will decide the election. But the growing impression from conversations with Israelis is that they are increasingly concerned by the eternal traffic jams, the anger over the impossible obstacles that young Israelis must overcome in order to fulfill their career ambitions, disgust with the rudeness and increasing violence of daily interactions and distress over the collapsing health care system.
The distress faced by teachers and the inferior education that many schoolchildren are receiving are also very troubling, but most Israelis haven’t drawn the dots from the endless difficulties that embitter their lives to the need to replace the government; the need to pass the baton to a new team, a government that will see to their security, of course, but that will also pull together as one to solve the serious day-to-day problems: the corruption, the indifference and the deterioration in managing the daily operation of the state.
For more than 40 years, the Likud government has been convincing Israelis that the most important item on the country’s agenda is not the real lives of its citizens, but rather a fantasy of mega-security (or mega-annexation), in the face of the mega-problems of a national confrontation with the Palestinians, a nuclear confrontation with Iran or a historic conflict with anti-Semitism, which only a mega-prime minister like Netanyahu can deal with.
The problems of ordinary Israelis, meanwhile, are less important, with fewer implications for the country’s future, especially when voters are showered with lower car prices and cheap flights abroad. These are important, of course, but only members of poor societies that don’t recognize their own worth are swayed by them. Wealthy societies, in which people genuinely have comfortable lives, understand that this is the minimum required in modern life. Not a tremendous achievement for which we have to show thanks by repeatedly voting for a ruler who is bored by ordinary problems.
There is no clearer example of the disconnect between the real lives of most Israelis and the arrogant words of Netanyahu and his circle than the dedication of people living near the border with the Gaza Strip to keeping the right in power, despite the plague of rockets, missiles and explosive-laden balloons that endanger their lives and those of their children day after day.
Their insistence on continuing to vote for Netanyahu under these conditions prove that they minimize their own worth and their right to live normal lives. Only by being willing to vote for a different candidate and to change the government can they finally reorder Israel’s priorities so that their lives will no longer be forfeit.
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